Western Wolves and playing Dirty Harry

Are wolves a reason to carry a Dirty Harry sidearm when fishing?

I do a lot of tromping through the backcountry looking for fish that most people overlook. I’m always aware that I could encounter a black bear or a grizzly bear and I prepare accordingly by bringing bear spray with me and keeping it strapped to my fanny pack. I haven’t considered wolves to be a threat, but I just read an account of wolves and hunters,  recently published in The Missoulian. And now I’m seriously considering packing a sidearm with me when I fish.

According to the story, on October 30 two Montana hunters were retrieving an elk in the Deep Creek area on the east side of Hungry Horse Reservoir. Mark Appleby of Columbia Falls and Raymond Pitman of Whitefish were at the elk carcass with their horses when those cayuses freaked. The hunters quickly realized they were surrounded by wolves so they did the natural thing—they opened fire on the pack. The hunters killed one wolf, but the pack followed them, barking and howling. Finally, the two men worked their horses down the trail to the trailhead and, eventually, out of the mountains.

“… The horses were totally out of control, damn near dragging us away,” Appleby said in a statement. “For an hour and a half back to the truck it was a rodeo with the horses as they were scared to death, spinning around and trying to look behind them for wolves.”

Pitman, who was firing at the wolves with his .44 magnum handgun, said in his statement “… My .44 was out of bullets, so we got the heck out of there, looking over our shoulders the whole way. God saved us this time, but those wolves are still out there. I won’t go in these woods without a sidearm ever again. These wolves were not afraid of us at all. They are killers.”

Appleby said that when he returned the following day for another try at retrieving his elk, he found a grizzly bear had claimed it.

“I am very pissed off,” Appleby said. “I lost all my hard-earned elk meat to a pack of damn wolves. I feel fortunate and blessed by God to have gotten out of there with my life, my friend’s life and horses’ lives. I’ve been out in the mountains five times in a week and have seen wolves on three of those times, including this attack.”

Hmm. See what I mean. Good excuse to get that Dirty Harry magnum afterall. And let me say right now: I like the idea of wolves running through the woods. But I’m not going to get shredded by a wild dog. So I will be packing the heat.

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